Digital SLR or Point and Shoot?

Digital Single Lens Reflex (D-SLR) or a compact point and shoot, which is better?  As with anything else, it depends on a) your level of commitment and b) how much control do you want.

First things first, why is it called a D-SLR and what makes a D-SLR?  Back in the day, a camera was identified by the type of system it used to view and capture the image.  Maybe a few of you can remember the old cameras that consisted of the lens, the roll of film, and when you looked through the viewfinder, the image was seen through a hole in the camera body itself, with a couple of small pieces of glass or plastic marking the borders of your image.  Those are a perfect example of a point and shoot camera.

A D-SLR is considered a Single Lens Reflex camera because when you look through the viewfinder, you are previewing the image through a single lens.  The image passes through the lens of the camera, onto a mirror.  The picture is then bounced off of another mirror to correct it from being upside down, and then you see the image.  All of this is happening before you even do anything to the camera.  When you press the shutter release button, the first mirror slides up and out of the way so the picture gets seen on the sensor behind the lens.  Fortunately, the light going into the camera is not bright enough to do damage to the camera’s sensor as it takes the light and turns it into an electrical or digital image.  Sometimes, the light can be too bright and eventually burn into a sensor, like when you take too many pictures of the sun.  For most people, that’s not an issue.  Just be careful.

Okay, now that the Single Lens part is out of the way, why is it called a reflex?  Remember the shutter button you pressed?  When you did that, the mirror jumped out of the way so the sensor could see the image.  Almost like a doctor smacking your knee with one of those annoying little hammers.  Tap + jump = reflex.  Same concept.

Most people prefer point-and-shoot cameras because with almost all digital point-and-shoot cameras, you see the image before you even push the button, the sensor is exposed all of the time giving you a “live-view”.  This is the preferred method of most beginning photographers.  The biggest benefit – you can see exactly what you get before you take the picture.

My biggest problem with point-and-shoot cameras,  I am a huge control freak.  I always have been and always will be.  A D-SLR allows you to control almost every aspect of the picture you can control, giving you (theoretically) exactly what you want in a picture.  Because cameras now have a screen on the back to view he image, you can adjust your setting on the spot to change the image to your liking.

D-SLRs are more expensive, but they allow control freaks like me a lot more convenience and peace of mind when I’m trying to make sure I got a picture as good as I can get it.

Camera trivia:  When you look at the back of a camera to see what the image to see what it looks like before you keep it, or try another shot?  That’s called chimping.  Supposedly, because a trained chimp could fix the image after seeing it.  Chimping or not, I still like being able to evaluate my success or failure on the spot.

Take care,


Digital Photography Basics, Uncategorized , , ,


  1. I have been a digital camera nut for a while when I replaced my old Ricoh film SLR with the first of many digital point and shoots. While I love the size and convenience of point and shoot, and for some projects like taking close-up footage at a Springsteen concert, they are the only way to go; I missed having the control and the ability to change lenses.

    For Christmas last year, I got a new Canon D-SLR and for my birthday I got a zoom. I am now getting used to the equipment again in prep for a 3 week Mediterranean trip later this summer for 25th anniversary.

    So far, I am loving my D-SLR a lot!

    Seize the Day,

    Simple Family Survival Tips For Disasters and Emergencies

  2. Uh, what do you mean, back in the day? Isn’t that still how you take pictures???? Think your level of expertise is WAY beyond mine!! While I have a digital camera now, I point and click and fix the problems when editing…as I say, I’m a dinasaur.
    Sonya Lenzo

  3. One huge problem of the point-and-shoot cameras is the time lag between then you push the button and when the camera takes the image. My daughter was using one of those last night trying to take a picture of our dog. The dog was running by her, and all she got was the tail.

    The SLR is much faster on the draw. I’ve have a canon rebel digital SLR since they first came out about 5 years ago, and I love it. It is getting old, and it is getting dust inside the body. Do you have any advice on how to clean it out?

    Tim Van Milligan, helping you Make Money Online, God’s Way!

  4. I do love being able to see the images right away. My SLR is still a film camera, but I have played with a friend of mine’s digital Nikon, and it is fun. It is also HEAVY. I lugged my film SLR around Europe for a year, and that was unpleasant at times (along with having to keep track of film, used and unused). He lugs his digital SLR everywhere, so I admire his strength of neck and back! I personally do not have a lot of luck with point and shoot digitals, but I think some of it is because I refuse to spend hundreds of dollars on one. But if the photos aren’t super important, and weight is an issue, I will grab the point and shoot one.

    Fun and Free Activities

  5. I agree about being able to look at your success or not…I hate that you used to take a back piture and have it developed…to then find out it was bad.

  6. I have always wanted to know what SLR meant and now I know. I am not the same level of photo nut that you are. I appreciate your article.
    Scott Sylvan Bell
    Now go implement!

  7. I always look at the picture after I take it to see if I need to delete it. But only if the picture is of me!

  8. Call me a chimp, I need to see if the picture is up to my standards or if I need to reshoot it.

    Thanks for explaining SLR but I’m gonna stick with the point and shoot camera.

    Sabrina Peterson, NASM CPT, CES
    Fat Burning Home Workouts

  9. I use both, I like the point and shoot for portability purposes, but I like my SLR for controling the elements involved with the pictures… So for on the go, traveling like p&s… for moment and scenes I want the best and willing to haul the equipment, SLR.

    Direct Selling Advice, Leveraging Relationships for Long-term Profit

  10. Glad to know there are other chimps around. Love my digital, like the control, but also like the automatic – and I also like the camera on my cell phone as well as my Flip video which I carry with me … you just never know when you’ll run into THE absolute foto-op!

    Oh, and thanks for explaining all these techy terms – good to know what they mean?


    Can you teach ESL/EFL using social media?

  11. Thanks for explaining what SLR is and how it all works.
    I’m a chimp cuz I like the point & shoot convenience but I will freely admit that I love how the SLR photos look when taken by someone who knows what they are doing.

    Some of those DLR shots are literally works of art.

    The Success Secrets

  12. I never have understood all the workings of digital cameras. I take mine point and shoot. Very seldom do I make any adjustments. Probably just screw up my camera.


  13. Cameras are way beyond my level of understanding. That’s why I have other people take pictures for me. Never OF me, just FOR me!

    Peggy Larson
    Custom Homemade Gifts

  14. What great information about cameras. I am like a lot of other people I would be considered a chimp. I need to take time and get better.

  15. You obviously know way more about cameras then I do 🙂

    Bay Area Roofing Contractors

  16. The wife has been bothering me …..for a new camera…she wanted a d-slr but couldn’t point out the difference…thank you for that..will show her your blog and educate her ….

  17. I have never paid much attention to my digital camera, but it really does distort the picture sometimes because of the delay after you press the button to take the picture. Technology never seems to slow down!

    Mike Casey

  18. I’m a camera idiot. Does anybody have the chimp’s phone number? I need to get him over here to show me how to use my camera.

    Lisa McLellan
    Babysitting Services, Nanny Services, and Nanny agencies

  19. You may call it a point and shoot camera to be nice but I just like to refer to it as an idiot camera…which is exactly what I need. I just don’t like when you can’t take another picture until the camera resets…Maybe I just need a more expensive camera!

    Jen B
    The Harwood Group – Tinnitus, Chronic Illness, Fears, and Anxiety

  20. Hi Dewayne,

    Thanks for explaining the differences between Digital SLR or point and shoot. As really an amateur photographer, the point and shoots are fine for me.

    What do you recommend or think in terms of what is needed for quality videography with a camcorder above and beyond what is in a Flip camera?

    Happy Dating and Relationships,

    April Braswell

    Single Boomer Dating

  21. I used to own a very advanced and complex camera that shot film and really enjoyed the control and flexibility it offered. Now I just shoot with a digital point and click but I do miss the features and controls of a much more advanced camera.

    I will need to upgrade soon.

    Steve Chambers
    Body Language Expert

  22. I know nothing about cameras so this is really good for me.

    Robert Kaufer
    Law and Health with Robert Kaufer